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  • Writer's pictureJo Johnson

Finding Gratitude Through Beauty

the beauty of a snowflake taken with a macro lens reminds us how easy it is to be grateful when things are good

Finding gratitude through beauty is one of the best ways to stay positive and motivated when life throws shitstorms at us.

Let's face it, it's easy when things are good, but what about when shit goes down and we're blindsided by the unexpected pitfalls of life and unwelcome surprises?

Last year, I completed the Gratitude Masterclass with Tamara Leavitt on the Calm App and, I have to say, it really opened my eyes and made me sit up and say, "Shit!" I had been practicing gratitude for years and truly believed I was doing well at it...haha, nope.

Finding Gratitude: Look at the beauty around you.

As Tamara says, "It’s easy to feel grateful when things are going well" (which is when I’ve always been best at it), but it’s the days when life turns into a three-ringed shitshow (I’m clearly paraphrasing that last part) that a solid gratitude practice is the most difficult.

That kinda smashes the nail on the head, doesn't it!

afternoon sunlight shines into a frozen soap bubble, a reminder of all the beauty that can be found around us

It’s the days when everything feels heavy and difficult that gratitude can lift us up and bring us back to the important aspects of our lives. And while I used to let myself fall into the "this day has been shit" abyss when things were going awry, I no longer allow myself to get to that point. I was listening to a wickedly rad podcast with Rich Roll and Zach Bush (if you don't know who they are, you're gonna love the shit out of them) and Zach told a story about gratitude and how hard it can be to find it when shit's going down. He was telling his buds, Patrick Gentempo that he was having trouble finding gratitude sometimes and Patrick told him that he didn't have to try to find gratitude, all he had to do was look around him at the beauty in the world and the gratitude would come.

And fuck me if that wasn't one of the most profound statements I have ever heard.

Now, when I'm having "a day", I stop everything and start looking around. And NOTHING instills a sense of gratitude in my heart like the beauty that exists everywhere I look in nature. Simply walking through the forest or hiking up a mountain and looking around is enough to make my heart grow three sizes (high fives, my grinch-loving peeps of the world) and fill right up to the cusp with gratitude.

Can't find anything to be grateful about? Go outside and experience the beauty in your hood—people, plants, animals, sounds, smells.

Finding Gratitude: Sometimes life kicks us in the face.

young cedar branch covered in a light dusting of snow in late afternoon light. A reminder that finding gratitude is easy when we look for the beauty around us.

Last year I was jumping over some BIG health hurdles and, right in the middle of that struggle, my orange fluffball cat (OJ, may he RIP) decided it would be a great idea to try to get carried off by a giant ass owl (who promptly punched him full of holes and then dropped his heavy, fat ass to the ground and busted up his face). #owlscanbeassholes

It was a kick I wasn’t expecting (a very expensive kick) and my stress level immediately exploded, to the point where I got light-headed and felt dizzy. Normally, I would have dropped into a bit of a funk over this and it would have taken me a few days to process it and find my way back to happy times. This time, however, I immediately walked outside and started looking around and feeling the warm breeze of early spring on my skin. I listened to all the songbirds, heard kids giggling down the street, watched our other cat rolling in the dirt on the driveway—completely relishing in the dirt bath. At that moment, I felt overwhelmed by the beauty surrounding me and I was amazed at how easy finding gratitude in such a stressful situation was.

It worked. My body and mind calmed down and, by the time I got back in my car to head back to the vet to pick up the floof, I was ready to tackle this new challenge.

[Incidentally, OJ survived that owl attack and went on to also survive eating a poisoned mouse before he was carried away by an unknown predator—probably an owl—during the full moon on August 15, 2019. He lived a true cat life, full of adventure and swashbuckling, for nearly 11 years and I have zero regrets about letting him live life his way. ]

And as I drove, I sat IN TOTAL AWE and WONDER, that such a simple exercise in a hella stressful moment could have such a profound effect on my stress level.

Finding gratitude is so much easier than we believe.

And then I realized the true impact of this gift I’d received from Tamara Leavitt and Zach Bush and all the others whose courses I've taken and podcasts I've listened to, whose gratitude practices I've tried.

Something that had seemed so elusive and difficult now comes as easily as breathing and all I have to do is apply this simple tool to help me shift from that stress-perpetuating, destructive habit of festering, spiraling thoughts to finding gratitude from the beauty around me.

So if you ever struggle with finding gratitude amidst the shit—especially during the 2020 Shitshow that we're now living through—get out there and look for the beauty, for the humanity, for the things that make your heart soar and the gratitude will find you.

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